Two Congressmen have taken the Department of Defense to task for
its decision to purchase 10 Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters next
year as it helps to create an Afghanistani Air Force. The Pentagon
has reportedly already paid $648 million to buy or refurbish 31 of
Mi-17s In Afghanistan File Photo
U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
said the government should reconsider and purchase U.S.-built
aircraft. The Washington Post quotes Shelby as saying "The Mi-17
program either has uncoordinated oversight or simply none at all
... The results have led to massive waste, cost overruns, schedule
delays, safety concerns and major delivery problems."
The Mi-17 helicopters have been in use for years in Afghanistan,
and General Mohammed Dawran, chief of the Afghan air corps, said
retraining the pilots, many of whom are in their 40's and "set in
their ways," would be difficult. Brigadier General Michael Borea,
the U.S. General in charge of rebuilding the Afghan air corps, said
the Mi-17's are well suited to the area, and that the Senators need
to "get beyond the fact that it's Russian."
Fox News reports that Shelby and Dodd say the lack of
competition has allowed Russian defense contractors to sharply
increase their prices.